All About Backups and Keeping Your Data Safe

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All About Backups and Keeping Your Data Safe

There has been an increasing amount of emphasis in recent times on the subject of keeping the information on your computer safe. The terms Back-Up, Archive, Data Storage and Security being mentioned frequently, but what is all about?

In simple terms, people are increasingly holding more and more information on their computers, be it photos, personal data and finance, business data, accounts, contacts, addresses and much more.

What everyone needs to understand is that the information held on your computer is a very vulnerable entity and can be very easily and completely lost, either by component failure, malicious acts or theft. If loss of the information you keep on your computer would cause you distress, then you need to take steps to ensure it is kept safe and that you would be able to continue even if your computer was stolen.

The only definite way of safeguarding against the many different kinds of threats is to have a copy of the valuable information and keep it away from the computer, this is commonly referred to as back-up. In case of loss, the information can then be restored to a computer from the safe back-up copy. A back up consists of an exact copy of this important data, kept on a separate storage medium such as a CD / DVD or an external tape or hard disk drive.

Naturally, a back-up is only as good as the last time that you actually made a back-up copy, so it is common practice to create a new back-up frequently and overwrite the old copy. How frequently you do this depends on how often your valuable information changes, the more changes, the more frequent the back-up. A back-up can be performed manually by simply copying the data you wish to back-up to your chosen media, or the process can be automated by using specialist back-up software programmes. Back-up software allows you to select the data that needs to be backed-up, when to make the back-up and where to copy the backed-up data to, this set up can then be memorised by the back-up software. Backing-up your data then becomes a relatively quick and simple process.

Many confuse back-up with “archiving”. Archiving is where you transfer data, which is important enough to keep, but no longer required (e.g. old photos, old accounts) to an external, safe storage medium for future reference. The archived data is then removed from the computers main hard drive to free-up space.

Whether backing-up or archiving, there is a choice of media you can record your copy on to:

Recordable CD or DVD
If you have a CD or DVD recordable drive, this is a better longer-term solution with more space. The downside is that the recording process can be a pain as you cannot just drag and drop and that you need CD’s or DVD’s to record on.

This type of backup can be cumbersome, time consuming and sometimes frustrating, depending on the software and the quality of disks used.

When using this method of backup, remember to check the disk you have transferred your data to, to make sure your computer can read the disc ok in future.

USB Pen Drives
Also known by various other names USB Pen Drives are an excellent low cost solution for smaller back-up purposes being easy to use and they are also great for transferring data from one computer to another.

External USB Hard Drives
For most users the best storage solution for back-up and archiving purposes is the USB external hard drive, being reliable, easy to install (just plug in to your USB port) and easy to use (just drag and drop your files to be backed-up). USB External Hard Drives are available in pocket or desktop sizes and storage capacities from a few Gb to 250Gb + offering a huge amount of recording space. Being a plug in device they can be easily disconnected and kept separate from your computer and out of harm’s way. Some external USB Hard Drives like Iomega come packaged with back-up software too.


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What is a Pen Drive?

A Pen Drive is a removable storage device that plugs into a computer’s USB port. Small enough to carry on a key ring, Pen Drives are great for transferring photos, music, documents and any other data from one computer to another. Different manufacturers over the years have named their Pen Drives with many different names causing constant confusion.
As a result of this the Pen Drive can also be known as Pocket Drive, Thumb Drive, Jump Drive, USB Flash Drive, USB Flash Memory Drive, USB Key Drive, USB Memory Key and USB Memory Stick among many others!

Although none of these names are either correct or incorrect, one of the names cause a huge amount of confusion for people, this is when someone referring to a Pen Drive, uses the term “Memory Stick”. This is because “Memory Stick” is a Sony trademark and refers to a type of memory card used in Sony’s electronic devices, it is therefore a completely different product, which will not plug directly into your computer’s USB port!

Pen Drives were invented by IBM in 1988 as a replacement to Floppy Disks but were never patented by them, M-Systems who were later contracted in by IBM to manufacture Pen Drives actually own the patent. So think of a Pen Drive as a modern day floppy disk. The main difference being that a floppy disk contains moving parts which can make the data stored on it vulnerable, a Pen Drive is solid state meaning there are no moving parts inside, making it resilient to dust and everyday magnetic fields and so a safer storage option. Also Pen Drives can hold much, much more data than the floppy disk.

Once connected to a computer’s USB port the Pen Drive appears in Windows as a “Removable Drive” alongside your C Drive, CD ROM Drive etc. You can simply drag and drop photos, music, documents and any other type of data on to the “Removable Drive” just as would with any other folder on your computer (no complex recording like CD or DVD is required). The Pen Drive can then be removed (see Safe Removal of Pen Drive below) from the computer and plugged into another computer’s USB port giving you access to the information you copied to the Pen Drive.

The compact size, robust nature and low cost of the Pen Drive has made it a big hit and an indispensible tool for many. It is ideal for transporting personal, or work data from one location to another, i.e. from home to school or office, or for carrying around data that someone may want to access in a variety of places. An insurance company in the US loads customer bio data and policy details on a tiny Pen Drive and advises policy holders to wear it with a neck strap in case of emergencies, another company is doing the same with policy holders who go Sking. Another company videos their conference and records it onto the Pen Drive so that the delegates can refer to it in future. Pen Drives can also be used to back up your important documents.